Surveillance stepped up amid DRC Ebola outbreak

As Ebola returns to Africa Nigeria attempts to secure its borders

One person is believed to have died following a new outbreak of the Ebola virus, the Democratic Republic of Congo's ministry of health announced Thursday.

The government has moved to assure that no case of Ebola has been reported in the country despite a recent outbreak of the unsafe virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

At least 17 people have died in an area of northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo, two years after the worst ever outbreak of the virus ended in West Africa after killing more than 11,300 people and infecting some 28,600, mainly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

World Health Organization still needs Congo's final authorization, which is expected in the coming days, Dr. Peter Salama, the agency's emergencies chief, told reporters in Geneva. The outbreak, first reported on May 8, has already hit three separate geographical areas over a 37 mile spread, also increasing the likelihood that the fast-acting, highly contagious virus could spread quickly. Two of those cases are confirmed to be Ebola.

"However, early signs including the infection of 3 health workers, the geographical extent of the outbreak, the proximity to transport routes and population centres, and the number of suspected cases indicate that stopping this outbreak will be a serious challenge".

World Health Organization has recorded 32 suspected or confirmed cases in Bikoro, including 18 deaths, between April 4 and May 9.

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The outbreak, declared by the DRC health ministry on Tuesday, is the DRC's ninth known outbreak of Ebola since 1976, when the deady viral disease was first identified in then-Zaire by a Belgian-led team.

The Organisation and the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres already have specialists on the ground and hope to have a mobile laboratory up and running this weekend, according to Mr Salama.

To date, the outbreak is reported in a remote area and appears to be geographically limited.

"We started well, and now we need to continue well, and we'll need the support of the entire global community for this response", he said. Key partners, skilled in working in Ebola outbreak settings, have been mobilized, such as Doctors Without Borders, the WFP, UNICEF-which helps with communication and sanitation activities-and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which helps perform safe burials. The virus is also spread through sexual contact. Family and friends who care for sick individuals are also at heightened risk for Ebola exposure.

Experimental vaccines and treatments for Ebola are under development, but they have not yet been fully tested for safety or effectiveness.

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